Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cape / Cloak / Capelet etc., etc., etc...

Once upon a time, I came across a tutorial to make a shoulder cape from men's shirt and old sweater from One Pearl Button blog. It must have been like a year ago, as it was after my maternity leave and I had to go back to work half-time. Anyways, since then I've always wanted to make one, and been searching on the internet for other tutorials for inspiration. Most were for kids' cape/cloak/capelet, or cater to the renaissance set and such, so the One Pearl Button tutorial fits my need better in general - refashioning an existing garment into it.

While in downtown with my son (and at a consignment store), I found an old smelly suede long coat with a fabulous faux fur collar (my assumption is that it is faux as I wouldn't know if it's real... my husband on the other hand worried that somebody might pour paint over me because of the collar, faux or not. ha!). I got it for $20 if I can recall correctly. It didn't really flatter me even though it fits, but I bought it for the fabulous collar and my cape/cloak/capelet vision. I do not have a "before" picture unfortunately, but just imagine a regular long, rectagular-ish/straight tan colored suede coat. Oh, plus the fabulous collar of course, which you can see in the "after" picture.

A few months after that, I picked up a few men's wool plaid jackets for $0.25 each at my favorite thrift store. One of them ended up to be the lining for my cape/cloak/capelet after much deliberation of what to use: old lining of the suede coat, thrifted silk shirt, and so on.

I only started working on this project sometime in the mid of August - after I became a full-time SAHM. Even though I had a lonnngggg time thinking about making this, I didn't really have a plan on how to construct it down to the last detail. This is a project that needs you to be flexible all the way. You have to when you are dealing with an existing piece of clothing to be reimagined into another. :) Next, please forgive me for wordy instead of pictorial explanation that follows. (This project was pre-blog, and even so, I do have poor documenting skills.)

As was normal for such a situation, I started with taking the seams apart. For this, I ripped the seams of the under-sleeves (but I left the part where the sleeves attach to the bodice's shoulders as they were) and the side seams of the coat.

I also decided on the length that I want to be just about my upper hip, taking into consideration of:
1) the existing seams in the coat design,
2) that I want to retain the existing self-covered buttons and buttonholes,
3) that I do not want slits for my hands that one usually see in some cape/cloat/capelet styles out there so as to keep the manipulating of the suede to a minimum, and
4) the amount of material available)

The ripping up of the coat and subsequently the wool jacket took a long time of course, and this made me bored. So while working on this project, I had to pause a couple of times to do other quickie refashion projects, like a Sorbetto top (posted here on and a pinafore-to-loose-tunic (posted here also on Burdastyle). Oh, and apparently I also made my first from scratch dress from a "vintage" (or retro?) Simplicity 8887 pattern I dubbed the Quirky Princess Dress, all while supposedly getting on with this cape/cloak/capelet hullabaloo.

Since I yet to own a dress form, I used the mirror and did a lot of draping on myself (sometimes I draped on the back of a chair though). So I know that I needed more suede sewn between the ripped-apart under-sleeves (this explanation sucks, sorry) and the ripped-apart seams of the bodice. Perhaps this "after" picture will illustrate better what I am trying to explain:

See the triangles between what was the sleeves and bodice? To connect the sleeves to bodice, I sewn 4 of those triangles - 2 at the front (as you can see) and 2 at the back. The method to figure out how much I needed to add? Sorry, it was down to the draping on self, looking at the mirror and then just winging it. Not helpful? Well, hey, look at the yummy collar instead!

For the lining, I basically ripped out the wool jacket's lining first (that took forever) and the sleeves. Made adjustment on the shoulders to fit me and the by-then-ready cape/cloak/capelet shell from its original men's size and then kinda patchworked the wool jacket to shape like the shell. I retained it's pockets and with some clever placement (ehem) turned them into my inner pockets where I can rest my cold hands! I'm kinda proud of that even if I can't take credit for sewing the welt pockets in the first place, hehehe. Positioning those pockets to the right height I wanted under the cape was essential before I sew the lining onto the outer shell. I bought a leather sewing needles for my machine and some thick threads (for upholstery and so on?) and used it when top stitching some parts.

Here is the inside view of the cape/lovely fabric:

Notice the pocket? I just zig-zagged the pieces together on top of each other and also zig-zagged shut some other unneeded areas and just trimmed down the excess fabric. I kinda like the haphazard look, and this way the lining was not as bulky as it would have been. Last but not least, I reattached the collar back to the cape/cloak/capelet. I hand-stitched only the back portion though instead of the whole collar, so that this collar sit nicely (IMO).

The label shown the jacket as 100% imported wool, but it's a thick but soft type of wool, very much like what a shrunken wool sweater feels like. You know, when you accidentally put that sweater in the dryer when you are not supposed to? Felted wool? Melton wool? I am not sure, but it feels nice and warm under the suede outer.


To be honest, I have only worn the cape/cloak/capelet once. It's not the most practical outerwear there is, and I imagine a bit overdressed for this small university town. But then again I have been lamenting the fact that for the past 10 years after graduating from uni, I have steadily progressed into somebody who doesn't take pride in how I look. No, that's not right. More like someone who doesn't take the time and care to groom myself? Someone too complacent? I'm not sure if I am eloquent enough to put this into words :) (Okay, I got it: not as put-together as I would have liked) I love pretty things, but it seems that while I have them in my closet, when it's time to go out, I pulled out the usual - jeans and tshirts. It is very rare that I put on even a lipstick. Come winter, it will be worse. Homeless people look better than me I'm sure. Did I mention I hate midwest winter?

Anyways, in line with my new resolution to make more effort (more for the state of my mind/general mental health - hubby and baby think I always looked pretty, such enablers they are!), I shall squeeze in more wear out of this before it gets freezing cold. Just because I mainly go out to shop for groceries, to the park and thrifting is no excuse for being a slacker and on top of that feel bad about it.


  1. OMG! That is so cute and it is definitely in fashion, so you should wear it with pride! You did a fabulous job and perfect is not as important as looked adorable in it and I think you should wear it often.

  2. Great find! I could be wrong but in my honest opinion that looks like mink, real mink. I doubt that a long leather coat like this would have a fake collar. The best way to find out is to look inside the collar at the underneath of the fur. Is it knit or leather? Then you'll know.

    Your wool is probably a melton which is sort of a shrunken woolen. It is used in warm woolen coats, can be a tad stiff but tailors nicely. Glad you found a sewing class that will fill your needs. With your persistance and determination I can see you getting to be very proficient quickly. Good luck.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  3. Hi Bunny! :) Thank YOU for stopping by and commenting on my blog. And thank you for your wish. I love sewing, and want to get better at it.

    I just checked the collar (unpicked the stitches), and as you said the back of the collar is fabric rather than leather. My guess is that the collar was added later to the jacket as it was attached crookedly by hand and the way the fur was was handsewn to fabric collar was also not tidy. Maybe the original owner regretted that addidtion, hence why I got my hands on it to chop off as I please!

  4. This is a lovely refashion. Would you like to be featured on Greeny Crafters?

    Agy from Green Issues

    1. Hi Agy! Thank you, and yes I would love to be featured on Greeny Crafters! What do I have to do?


    2. Hi Far! Will be featuring you this coming Monday :-)
      Remember to pop by and grab a button. Happy Labour Day!!


    3. That's so exciting! Look forward to it Agy. Have a great weekend!


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